LCQ10: Safety of drinking water from wall-mounted dispensers

Following is a question by the Dr Hon Helena Wong and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (November 18):


In the past two months, drinking water samples taken from the wall-mounted thermostatic electric kettles (kettles) in several kindergartens were found to have a lead content exceeding the provisional guideline value of the World Health Organization. In reply to my written enquiry, the Customs and Excise Department has advised that as kettles are electrical products, which are not subject to the regulation of the Consumer Goods Safety Ordinance (Cap. 456), issues relating to the safety of kettles are not within the purview of the Customs and Excise Department. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether there is any existing legislation regulating the safety and use of kettles; which government department(s) is/are responsible for the relevant regulatory work;

(2) given that several drinking water samples taken from the kettles of kindergartens were found to have excessive lead content, whether the authorities will require kindergartens to replace those kettles which have not obtained international certification on safety compliance; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(3) given that when kettles are not in use at night, lead released from the lead-containing components of kettles may accumulate in the water stored therein, and hence the authorities have advised users to first drain the water stored in the kettles before using them every morning, fill them with fresh supply of water and heat it before drinking, whether the authorities have assessed the number of users who will follow such a recommendation; if they have assessed and the outcome is that only a small number of people will do so, whether the authorities will put forward other safety recommendations that are more practicable; if they will, of the details?



With the assistance of the Water Supplies Department (WSD), the Education Bureau has started the water sampling tests in phases for all participating kindergartens in Hong Kong from September 10. As at November 16, tests for the 1 329 drinking water samples taken from 657 kindergartens had been completed. They included 1 025 samples taken from the inside service, 24 from drinking fountains and 280 from wall-mounted dispensers. Except for the ten samples taken from the wall-mounted dispensers of eight kindergartens, all the remaining samples conformed to the provisional guideline values for lead in the World Health Organization's Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality.

The following is the consolidated reply of the Development Bureau to the written question from the Dr Hon Wong, after consultation with the relevant bureaux and departments:

(1) Installation and use of a wall-mounted dispenser involves two parts, namely power supply and water supply. In respect of power supply, the fixed electrical installation must be installed by a registered electrical worker in accordance with the safety requirements as specified in the Electricity (Wiring) Regulations (Cap. 406E).

As for the part of water supply, installation of a water using apparatus, such as a wall-mounted dispenser(note: other water using apparatus include washing machines, dishwashers, ice makers and coffee machines, which are connected to the inside service), and connection of its inlet hose to inside service requires the approval of the Water Authority under the Waterworks Regulations (Cap. 102A) to prevent water backflow and contamination to the inside service. But the safety of a water using apparatus is not regulated by the Waterworks Regulations.

As regards the overall safety regulation for wall-mounted dispensers, we consider that there is no dedicated provision under the existing legislation for regulating wall-mounted dispensers based on our preliminary understanding from relevant bureaux.

In view of excess lead found in drinking water samples taken from the wall-mounted dispensers, a joint investigation into the matter by the Development Bureau, the WSD and other relevant departments are already underway. They will also look into the related regulatory issues.

(2) In light of excess lead found in drinking water samples taken from the wall-mounted dispensers of kindergartens, the WSD has made recommendations on the installation and use of such dispensers and reminded consumers to choose products with international certification (e.g. the WaterMark of Australia or the Water Regulations Advisory Scheme of the UK) when purchasing wall-mounted dispenser. The Education Bureau forwarded these recommendations to the schools for reference on September 29.

(3) The amount of lead released by lead-containing components of a wall-mounted dispenser will increase if the components are in contact with hot water over the whole night when the dispenser is not in use. Therefore, we recommend that the power supply to wall-mounted dispensers should be disconnected during the night to stop the dispenser's automatic re-heating and keep-warm functions. The unused water in wall-mounted dispensers should also be drained away every morning for other use. The recommendation is not complicated. We have not conducted any assessment on the number of users who would adopt our recommendation.

Ends/Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Issued at HKT 11:33